Shane Bieber delivering a pitch

Shane Bieber’s stellar season has allowed him to vault to the shortest AL MVP odds with only a few weeks left in the season. Photo via @CBSSportsHQ (Twitter).

  • The AL MVP odds for Cleveland ace Shane Bieber are almost three times better than they were at the start of September
  • Only two pitchers have won an MVP award since 1993
  • To see how Bieber stacks up with the rest of the MVP candidates, check out the article below

Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber is now the rightful frontrunner in the American League MVP race. Only eight days ago, he was a middle-of-the-pack candidate at +1350, lagging behind players like Brandon Lowe (+500), Jose Abreu (+600), and Mike Trout (+633).

Bieber, the AL leader in just about every important pitching statistic, has since leapfrogged all three (and more). Drastic line movement is an unsurprising byproduct of such a short season.

Here’s how the average AL MVP odds currently look, with only a few weeks left in the season.

2020 AL MVP Odds

Player (Position, Team) Average Odds on Sept. 9 Average Odds on Sept. 1
Shane Bieber (Pitcher, Indians) +400 +1350
Mike Trout (Outfielder, Angels) +550 +633
Jose Abreu (First Baseman, White Sox) +650 +600
Nelson Cruz (Designated Hitter, Twins) +825 +833
Brandon Lowe (Second Baseman, Rays) +950 +500
Anthony Rendon (Third Baseman, Angels) +1125 +1183
Luke Voit (First Baseman, Yankees) +1250 +1367
Jose Ramirez (Third Baseman, Indians) +1500 +2033
Willy Adames (Shortstop, Rays) +1500 N/A
Tim Anderson (Shortstop, White Sox) +1650 N/A
Luis Robert (Outfielder, White Sox) +2000 +2833
Matt Chapman (Third Baseman, Athletics) +2100 +2233
Francisco Lindor (Shortstop, Indians) +2450 +1967
Kyle Lewis (Outfielder, Mariners) +2500 +2600
Teoscar Hernandez (Outfielder, Blue Jays) +2500 N/A

Odds as of Sept. 9th.

Is Bieber really doing to do this thing? If not, who’s the reasonable play? Let’s dive in.

Precedent for MVP Pitchers

There is not a ton of historical precedent for pitchers winning the MVP award, though there are two fairly recent cases. Justin Verlander (2011) and Clayton Kershaw (2014) are the only pitchers to earn MVP honors dating back to 1993.

Part of this is due to the fact pitchers sort of have their own MVP already, the Cy Young Award. Another part of it is that starting pitchers only work every fifth day, a key differentiator from other players.

But of course, the likes of Verlander and Kershaw prove it can be done. For this conversation, that’s a point in Bieber’s favor.

The Mastery of Bieber

To borrow a relevant baseball phrase, Bieber’s season performance is nearly the equivalent of a perfect game. His current numbers — 7-0 record, 1.25 ERA, 14.9 strikeouts per nine, 1.58 FIP — are absolutely spectacular and well worth the MVP award.

All nine of his starts have featured at least two of the following things: six-plus innings pitched, three or fewer runs allowed, and eight-plus strikeouts.

And yet, as other-worldly as he has been, there’s cause for concern: he has four scheduled starts to go, and if even just one of those is an implosion, it would likely derail his MVP bid. He must continue to be near-perfect.

Don’t Count Out Trout

The safer pick at this point is Mike Trout. The three-time (and reigning) MVP is doing something this season he has never done before: leading the majors in home runs.

Only Nelson Cruz has a better OPS than Trout, but Cruz’s value is capped by the fact he is solely a designated hitter. Trout, on the other hand, mashes baseballs while playing the premier position of center field.

If Bieber has a bad day, he has far fewer opportunities to redeem himself. It might simply take one rough inning to pull him out of the race.

If Trout has a bad game, he gets to go right back on the field the next day to try again. For someone as talented — and decorated — as Trout, that’s all the solace a bettor can ask for.

Pick: Mike Trout (-550)

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